MI Sustainable Winegrowing Trip – Day 1

In our first day of meetings in California, our group was fortunate enough to absorb the perspective of individuals and organizations that have helped shaped sustainable winegrape growing throughout California. It became evident that public private partnerships, research and education, and integration of sustainability into business strategy have played a large role in the success of the California programs, wineries and vineyards.

Our day began with a tour led by Karen Block of the Robert Mondavi Institute at UC Davis and the recently completed Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery. The facilities at UC Davis synthesize education and research with the spaces to practice winemaking techniques. Within a stones throw from classrooms, students work on vineyards, and in the cellar (with a classroom built in) on practices that will improve wine quality, increase operation efficiency, and reduce natural resource use. The Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery highlights the importance of public-private partnerships in the wine industry. UC Davis researchers contribute to the body of literature that impact sustainable wine production practices, and the needs of the industry help direct the research. Nowhere is this relationship more evident than the modular research stations in the sustainable winery that act as incubation space for the next generation of sustainable wine technology.

Over lunch, we learned about the development over the last 25 years of Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing from Matt Hoffman, the Grower Program Coordinator with the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Lodi Rules grew out of interest in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) from a group of growers in the Lodi Crush District 11. Since it’s inception, Lodi has grown into an accredited program by Protected Harvest that has utilized on by wine industry organizations around the state and across the country as the basis for development of their own state programs. The Lodi Winegrape Commission’s success stems from a commitment to the growers of Lodi; growers in Lodi are invested in the program and certification because of the value their operations gain from the research and education that the Commission leads or develops through collaboration with research institutions.

Our day concluded at The Lucas Winery with David Lucas and Stanton Lange. From a vineyard management and winery business strategy persperctive, The Lucas Winery and the efforts of Stanton Lange’s vineyard management crew integrate sustainable and organic wine practices at every level. Organic and sustainable philosophies begin with the management of their old vine zinfandel and end with a cork popped on a bottle of The Lucas Winery ZinStar. The Lucas Winery made a commitment to growing the highest quality grapes and produce fine wines that subscribe to environmental standards that reduce the environmental impact of their wine and preserve the integrity of the land for future generations. Their wine club has adopted sustainability as their own. Visitors are treated to an intimate tour of vineyards, taught organic and sustainable viticulture practices, and even given the opportunity to adopt a vine that they will prune, thin, and harvest during the year so that they truly are invested in the quality and longevity of the Lucas Winery wines they enjoy.

By Cam Brown